Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

in which this lady is good enough to exemplify the phenomena of money, by supposing a Siberian market carried on very briskly for a whole day upon five mouse-skins, as the sole circulating medium --the said mouse-skins, from some unaccountable quality, being ten times as valuable at the end of the day as at the beginning. The mouse-skins are then carried off by the cat, or some travelling fur-traders, we forget which, and the Siberian colonists have recourse to a new kind of money, consisting of mammoth-bones! Fancy a pocket-full of mammoth-tusks and tibiæ, with the grinders, we presume, for small change! And this trash is to bring political economy within the comprehension of babes and sucklings!

Our readers have by this time had enough of this damsel. We will only express our sorrow at observing, that in her remaining tales she still continues to harp on the necessity of limiting the number of consumers'! Nor is sorrow, perhaps, the word we ought to use. We should be loth to bring a blush unnecessarily upon the cheek of any woman; but may we venture to ask this maiden sage the meaning of the following passage :

A parent has a considerable influence over the subsistence-fund of his family, and an absolute control over the numbers to be supported by that fund. Has the young lady picked up this piece of information in her conferences with the Lord Chancellor? or has she been entering into high and lofty communion on such subjects with certain gentlemen of her sect, famous for dropping their gratuitous advice on these matters into areas, for the benefit of the London kitchenmaids? We all remember Moore's 'She Politician.'

• 'Tis my fortune to know a lean Benthamite spinster,

A maid who her faith in old Jeremy puts,
Who talks with a lisp of " the last new Westminster,"

And hopes you're delighted with “ Mill upon Gluts," ' &c. Did Miss Martineau sit for the picture? But no ;—such a character is nothing to a female Malthusian. A woman who thinks child-bearing a crime against society! An unmarried woman who declaims against marriage!! A young woman who deprecates charity and a provision for the poor!!!

Miss Martineau bas, we are most willing to acknowledge, talents which might make her an useful and an agreeable writer. But the best advice we can give her is, to burn all the little books she has as yet written, with one or two exceptions ;-to abstain from writing any more till she has mastered a better set of principles' than the precious stock she has borrowed from her favourite professors; and, in the mean time, to study the works of a lady who, with immeasurably greater abilities in every way, was her predecessor in the line she considers so wholly original — the

illustrating

Tali

.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

illustrating by fiction the natural laws of social welfare. Political economy is far more ingeniously as well as justly illustrated in the Absentee' and Castle Rackrent,' than in Ireland. There is not indeed one tale of Miss Edgeworth's but conveys some useful lesson on questions which materially concern the economy of society. But the difference between the two writers is, that the moral of Miss Edgeworth's tales is naturally suggested to the reader by the course of events of which he peruses the narrative; that of Miss Martineau is embodied in elaborate dialogues or most unnatural incidents, with which her stories are interlarded and interrupted, to the utter destruction of the interest of all but detached bits of them. *

ART. VIII.-The Causes of the French Revolution.

pp. 274. London. 1832. THIS HIS thin book, or rather thick pamphlet, is—his booksellers

make no secret about it—the production of Lord John Russell. Some years ago his Lordship undertook what he called * Memoirs of the Affairs of Europe since the Peace of Utrecht,' and of these he had already presented to the world two massy volumes, which, however, the world was not pleased to accept. Had he continued his story on the original scale, Lord John must have become as voluminous as Thomas Aquinas, before he could have reached the peace of Amiens. But the construction of the Reform Bill, correspondence with Political Unions, and other useful public labours, have diverted his attention from the prosecution of this gigantic task; and we must be contented, it seems, with sixpence in the pound—with a few detached sections on the most momentous revolution of modern times, which the noble author had at first designed to interweave with the narrative of his thirtieth or thirty-fifth quarto.

His Lordship is perhaps not aware,—for W'hig lords, even when not cabinet ministers, have always been averse to hear wholesome truths, -that a man, who played a considerable part in that revolution, had already characterized his Lordship as a ' petit littérateur ;' but we do not believe that the French language has any diminutive by which that eminent person could express the contempt which he—and every man who knows anything of French

* It gives us much pleasure to see, that Miss Edgeworth's stories are now in the course of republication in a cheap series of monthly volumes, with corrections and notes, after the fashion of the current editions of the Waverley novels and the works of Lord Byron. But are we never to have any more new novels from her now unrivalled haud ?

literature

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

literature or history-must have for such an impudent catchpenny
as this.

In the first place, these · Causes of the French Revolution'
extend no farther than the death of Louis XV. The two first
chapters contain a very high-coloured description of the profligacy
of the court during the latter years of that monarch; but they
contain no attempt to prove that such profligacy led to a general
system of misgovernment, or that such misgovernment existed
either before or since. It is easy to produce instances of vice and
folly in the upper classes of a nation, which may nevertheless not be,
as regards the happiness and prosperity of the middle and lower
classes, ill governed. Some theorists may dream that private vices
may be public benefits; but let not the absurdity of such a posi-
tion drive us into the contrary absurdity, that all the misfortunes of
an empire are to be referred to the immorality of the fashionable
world. But however this may be, Lord John at least takes no
trouble about proving his position; and it would have been very
interesting to have followed the series of demonstration by which
he should have proved that Louis XV.'s profligacy had excited the
virtuous indignation of men quite as profligate, and a thousand times
more wicked. The third chapter (twice as long as the other two
together) gives us an account of the lives and personal adventures
of the principal writers of that period, and more especially Vol-
taire and Rousseau. In the two hundred and seventy-four pages
of this pamphlet, it is almost incredible how large a space is de-
voted to the most insignificant details. No less than three dinners
are minutely described in different passages. The first, we are told,
comprised 'good brown bread, made entirely of wheat;' « a ham
that looked very tempting ; ' ' a bottle of wine, the sight of which
rejoiced the heart, and a large omelette. The next, seventy
pages afterwards, consists of juicy vegetables and mutton of the
valley, admirably roasted.' Of the third dinner the dishes are
not recorded, but we are told that it began between five and six ;
that it lasted nearly two hours, and was followed by different
childrens' games, and especially 'the royal game of goose!' It
is a little hard to have the crambe repetita, and to have the game
of goose continued by Lord John Russell. Lord John Russell is
equally communicative as to all the dirty little amours of Rous-
seau, and revels through a dozen pages on Voltaire's liaison with
Madame du Chatelet. Describing the same great man at a later
period, he informs us, that-
• His usual habit was to stay in bed till twelve o'clock; till two, he
wrote or received company; from two till four he was out in his
carriage with his secretary; on his return he took coffee or chocolate,
and worked till eight or nine, when, if well, he appeared at supper.

He

[ocr errors]

He went to bed at eleven or twelve, and never slept more than five hours. When he wished to write down his thoughts, he rang for his secretary, whose room was below his,' &c., &c.!!-p. 117. And such trifling, forsooth, is to pass for philosophy and historyfor a critical inquiry into the real causes of the French Revolution !

We are also bound to say, that short as this essay is, it affords conclusive proof that Lord John Russell is as slightly and superficially acquainted with the French language as with French history. Thus, for instance, in one of his favourite descriptions of a dinner, translated from Rousseau, he concludes by saying, that it was such as pedestrian never made before. Now, the original is tel qu'autre qu'un piéton n'en connut jamais, and we need hardly point out that these words do not bear the meaning which Lord John Russell gives them, but allude to the healthy appetite derived from a journey on foot-a mode of travelling which Rousseau frequently practised, and which he highly extols in his Emile. Thus again, Lord John repeats a good, but somewhat threadbare jest, in the following words :- Madame du Deffand said, on being asked whether she could believe that St. Denys had walked a whole league with his head under his arm ? Ét cependant ce n'est que le premier pas qui coute.' Every critical reader of French must at once perceive, as every one acquainted with the anecdote knows, that the words et cependant are inconsistent with the point of the bon mot.

In another place, talking of Sophie Arnoud (not 'Arnaud ') the opera girl, (for such are his Lordship's historical authorities,) Lord John tells us, It was she who, seeing the head of the Duke of Choiseul placed on the reverse of a medal of Sully, said, “I suppose it means receipts and expenses,”' (p. 164). What Sophie did say was, la recette et la dépense '-i. é. the receipt and the expenditure. Now that he is an official personage, Lord John might be expected to understand the dialect of quarterday; at least it is hard upon poor Sophie that an English cabinet minister should destroy the only reputation she ever possessedthat of wit.

We might also, were it worth while, prove his Lordship to be a frequent blunderer in even his slight sketches of the lives of Rousseau and Voltaire, which, while he thought he was translating, he has only transformed. To give a single instance : speaking of the children of the sentimental Swiss being sent to the Foundling Hospital, the Noble Paymaster observes, · It was for telling this secret that he quarrelled for ever with Diderot.' Now this is wholly incorrect. This secret was known so early as 1751, as we find by a letter of Rousseau's to Madame de Francueil on the 20th of April in that year, and it had even become a topic of

common

common gossip amongst his neighbours at Paris.* Rousseau and Diderot continued on intimate terms for several years afterwards. Their final quarrel was connected with the affair of Madame d'Epinay, and took place in the winter of 1757.

We have no right to blame Lord John Russell for not being: so accurate a French scholar as his colleague, Lord Palmerston. But we do blame him for passing, under these circumstances, such very decided and presumptuous judgments on the old French manners and the old French government. We do blame him for saying, without a shadow of proof—nay, in opposition to all proof --that this government was totally beyond all capability of improvement'-it is the fashion of his party and his day to confound reform and destruction ;-and above all we pity him for thinking that to collect, and mangle, a few gossiping anecdotes, is to write history-and that to mistranslate jest-books is to develope the origin of a great national convulsion.

The important public functions of the noble author have of course prevented him from studying any very recent books on the subject of his own lucubrations—but we are of opinion that, even as an English minister, he might have profited had he stolen a few hours for Dumont's Souvenirs de Mirabeau; or, to speak more truly, stolen a few pages from that volume, as he has done from so, many others less worth the theft. He would not indeed have found there any silly twaddle about the loves and suppers of journalists and encyclopædists; but he would have been presented with the true causes and true men of the French Revolution. That work proves, that its hitherto unappreciated author's original powers of thinking were of the highest order, and made him as far superior to the petits littérateurs,' whom Lord John congenially loves to quote, as Mirabeau himself was to Jeremy Bentham. It displays at the same time that sensitive and shrinking disposition, often attendant on real genius, which left him nearly indifferent to personal fame or distinction, and ready to give out his own ideas under the sanction of some other more aspiring name. His cha, racters of Mirabeau and the other real heroes of the Revolution are drawn with the hand of a master, and disfigured neither by flattery nor satire. His views of that Revolution itself deserve still deeper attention. Above all, we must express our feelings of gratitication at the justice which this eminent and clear-sighted writer has done to another writer still more eminent and clear-sighted than bimself—to one of the brightest names in the bright annals of this country-of the world--to Edmund Burke. He is far from being an unqualified admirer of Mr. Burke's Letters on the French Revolution ; he charges them with exaggeration and party tone, and • See Rousseau's works. (Vol. ii., p. 127, ed, 1822.)

at

« PreviousContinue »